Access to certain areas in the British Columbia (Canada) backcountry would likely remain restricted this summer as assessments are still ongoing.
Picnic tables are buried in the gravel, a bridge leads to nowhere, and access roads are destroyed by rock, water, and mud.
According to a report, backcountry enthusiasts have begun to list the damages caused by several atmospheric rivers cascading across B.C. in November, melting snow and making even the tiniest creeks into torrents.
According to outdoor organizations, while it is not as devastating as the destruction of highways and homes, the impact on the B.C. backcountry is staggering. The members are also worried that public access to recreation areas could be restricted in the coming months.
“They’ve cleaned up the logs and fixed the stream, but there’s still a lot of damage,” said Trevor Carne, a Chilliwack realtor who lives near Cultus Lake.
When he returned to his favorite trail following the storm, he noticed evidence of numerous mudslides. On Maple Bay, where he swims three times per week, he discovered picnic tables covered in gravel, tons of logs washed up on the beach, and a creek where there was once a pathway down into the ocean.
“The whole landscape has changed,” he declared.
Other parks haven’t started as restoration continues in Cultus Lake Provincial Park. Further east, Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park is still closed due to hazards and damage from flooding and erosions. Videos posted on social media depict the Othello Tunnels, a historic structure full of gravel, rocks, and fallen tree stumps.
Rec Sites and Trails B.C, under the Ministry of Forests, is still assessing the destruction to campgrounds and trails on Crown land, which is a process that hasn’t been completed because of the snow level. An initial estimate suggests that the work can cost CA$500,000.
“RSTBC is developing a plan for having sites and trails open this summer, (but) not all facilities will be open,” said a statement. “Access may be restricted this coming season due to the significant challenges with repairing the road system.”
Several forest service roads that are essential to access trailheads, campgrounds, and vast areas of Crown forest were damaged by the storms, rendering several popular trails within Chilliwack Valley inaccessible.
“The trails aren’t too bad,” said Cal Francis, a member of the Chilliwack Outdoor Club. “It’s the access that’s the biggest problem.”
Chilliwack Outdoor Club manages its own Mount Slesse Memorial Trail, which leads to a monument honoring 62 people who died after a plane crashed into the mountain in 1956. Some logging roads to the trailhead have disappeared entirely and added 14 kilometers to the hike’s total distance. Francis said that the group lacks the funds and authority to repair the road.
At Sumallo Grove in E.C. Manning Provincial Park, the storm caused a river to alter course, leaving a bridge to nowhere where the river once flowed. Also, in Manning, the Windy Joe trailhead near Monument 83, which links up to the international Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico, is severely eroded.
“It could take years to fix everything,” said Jay MacArthur, director of the trails committee for the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. “The main problem is that there just isn’t the money to maintain access to a lot of these trails in parks and provincial forests.”
Snowmobile clubs have been working on the Coquihalla Highway, where several routes were damaged by the storms, according to Donegal Wilson, executive director of the B.C. Snowmobile Federation. At least three B.C. clubs, including Coquihalla, Tulameen, and Merritt, have been notified of substantial damage. The Fernie club used a CA$100,000 grant to help restore access to areas that attract a significant number of tourists and money to the region.
Certain recreation areas, such as portions of the Fraser Canyon, suffered fire and flood destruction this year. Bernie Fandrich, retired owner of Kumsheen Rafting Resort, was forced to quit his family’s business following Lytton’s fire. While the resort’s main buildings were not damaged, the cabins made of canvas were destroyed. Fandrich estimated revenue during the past two years was down 80%.
“After that came the flood,” said Fandrich. “The Nicoamen River, where we launch our rafts, went insane. It drastically changed course and took out a huge area of land and dumped it into the Thompson River.”
Using its powers during a provincial state of emergency, the Ministry of Transportation began to rebuild the river bank to repair the highway, destroying Kumsheen’s campground and raft launch. The company has asked their lawyer to help restore access to the river for recreation.
“We hope that they’ll consider the importance of river access there for rafters and kayakers,” Fandrich ended.
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